A few years ago, I wrote an important article that was universally hailed by Van Halen fans as the definitive, all-time top 10 list of their songs in existence. But that was before the reunion with Diamond Dave, so I thought it was only fair to revisit their back catalog in light of these events. I’ve really given this a lot of thought and I think you may be surprised at the changes.
If you know me, you know there are two things I love in this world, more than anything: Disneyland, America and Van Halen.
I’ve been outspoken about this in the past and I get a lot of emails asking me things like, “What’s the best song on OU812?” or “Did you know that For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge spells out a swear word if you take the first letter of each word and put it together?” and “Who’s better: Cherone or Hagar?”
I believe that music is about evolution. I don’t think it makes much sense when you’re talking about how the world got started, but I think it explains music pretty well. Music just got continually better as time went on, it’s an accepted fact.
At first, you had classical music; which is stupid and doesn’t even have any words. Then rock n’ roll was invented, but it was all black guys. Elvis came along and made it better. Then you had Rush, ELO and Van Halen who topped that.
Then you had a better Van Halen.
Then you had an even better Van Halen; music reached its pinnacle and that was it. It never got any better and it never will.
So, as my gift to you, all the Van Halen fans out there, here is my list of the 10 best Van Halen songs of all time, lovingly crafted by me, the world’s biggest and greatest Van Halen fan of all time.
The top 10 Van Halen songs of all time:
10. Right Now (F.U.C.K.) – If it wasn’t awesome, why would they have put it in that Crystal Pepsi commercial? Plus, the video helped me learn to read.
9. Jump (1984) – The only Roth-era song you’ll find on this list. It addressed the band’s biggest shortcoming: namely Eddie’s guitar playing. If they had incorporated more synth earlier on, perhaps they could have saved the band. But then again, it never would have had the chance to soar to new heights under Sammy Hagar.
8. When It’s Love (OU812) – How do I know when it’s love? When this song is on the radio, that’s how!
7. One I Want (Van Halen III) – Gary Cherone really comes into his own on this track, taking the reigns and rocking all night long! One listen to this now and you’ll want to kill yourself when you realize what could have been!
6. Dreams (5150) – After showing some promise with “Jump”, David Lee What’s-his-face jumped ship (not literally, unfortunately) and Van Halen fans rejoiced at the idea of the band going on without him. The Hagar-era VH would mark a return to their roots as a synth-based Top 40 act, finally eschewing their sad forays into harder rock. This song, a notable exception, proved that you don’t have to be a no-goodnik to get down! Bonus points for featuring the Blue Angels in the video. I hope that helped enlistment figures!
5. Fire in the Hole (Van Halen III) – Who could forget everybody’s favorite scene in everybody’s favorite Lethal Weapon film, Lethal Weapon 4? Not me, that’s who! A crazy guy with a flamethrower is no match for the heat generated by this rocker!
4. More Than Words (Diver Down) – Proving that rockers can be sensitive, yet tough, Gary and Eddie duet beautifully on this prom night/wedding staple that showcases the band’s abilities to harmonize.
3. Humans Being (Twister Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – I don’t care if this broke up the band, this song is great! The perfect soundtrack for the perfect movie, Twister. I can watch that scene where the smarmy British guy gets killed over and over! God save the Queen? More like “save the pieces of your body for that closed-casket funeral we’re going to have for you later when we send you back to England!”
2. Without You (Van Halen III) – The ultimate in Gary Cherone-era Van Halen, itself the ultimate in Van Halen-ness. This is simply as good as it gets. This will rock you for days but also make you think. And this is why I feel these tracks are vastly superior to those that came before them. Nobody likes Roth and his clowning around. Rock n’ Roll isn’t about partying and having fun, just ask Rush. Sammy Hagar brought some much-needed jingoism and ballyhooing to the mix, but it was only when the two best bands of the 90’s (VH and Extreme) were blended like this, could rock take its rightful place up there with country as the king of music.
1. Without You (Van Halen III and God’s very own radio) – It’s simply good enough to be listed twice. In fact, this whole list is bullshit, 1-10 should just be this one song.